Our class needs unity

by Daphne Liddle

LEN MCLUSKEY, general secretary of the giant union Unite, last week wrote in the Guardian that unions must be able to fight for workers, even if it means breaking bad laws. He said: “People have intrinsic rights that democratically elected legislatures sometimes violate. The right of working people to combine, to organise, is one of them.

He added: “Restrictions imposed on our campaigning role in the Lobbying Act will be followed by laws to make picketing nigh on impossible.”

“Last week our governing body, Unite’s executive, unanimously agreed to make it shorter. It recommended the deletion from our rules of six little words that have governed our union’s actions: ‘so far as may be lawful’,” he said.

It is a shame that it has taken three decades, since the defeat of the Miners’ Strike and the passing of anti-union laws that made it very hard for our class to defend our living standards, to realise that the class struggle cannot be won if we passively allow our class enemy to make all the rules.

The New Communist Party has sometimes been criticised for being too soft on lazy and opportunist trade union leaders and on the Labour Party leadership.

We do recognise that these vital organs of our class struggle are full of self-seeking careerists who are easily bought and influenced by the wellheeled agents of the ruling class.

But we also know the answer is not to attack the existence of the unions and the Labour Party and set up dozens of tiny splinter alternatives that will divide and demoralise the class.

The Labour Party is not going to bring us socialism because it is a reformist party and not a revolutionary party. Only a working class revolution, the breaking of the capitalist state and replacing it with a workers’ state can bring us real socialism.

But although working class wages and living standards are under attack like never before and the ruling one per cent of filthy rich capitalists in Britain and throughout the world are now blatant and brazen in their greed and corruption, we still seem to be a long way from a revolutionary situation in Britain.

Capitalism is crumbling from its own internal contradictions, it cannot go on much longer in its current form; a prospect of growing fascism and/or world war threaten. The missing ingredient that would make this a revolutionary situation is a working class that understands the class struggle; that is educated and organised and has confidence in its own power.

We recognise that the ruling class, to protect its hold on power and wealth, is bound to attack the working class where it is strongest — by the front door with anti-union laws, police, media attacks, lies and scaremongering — and by the back door with infiltration, bribes so on from within.

The front line of the class struggle is inside the labour movement: the party and the unions. And that is where we must be to fight to recover the leadership of the movement for the working class. We don’t win the war by quitting the arena nor by destroying our own weapons — the unions.

We do it by seizing them back and wielding them with confidence, with audacity.

That force must come up from the grassroots level but it will be encouraged by union leaders who have at last summoned the wit and courage to defy anti-union laws — as long as they really do it and don’t just talk about it.

The rising of the workers could happen fairly quickly given the correct inspiration and some examples of success. Such examples are few and far between but there are some like the battle for Lewisham Hospital that roused an entire community. That victory is fragile and will have to be defended again and again but it is still a victory. And it was won by building unity, not division.

This is a time for abandoning old sectarianisms and wasting time arguing over what long-dead leaders said a century ago. Nothing drives workers away from the struggle faster than those who should be giving leadership in today’s circumstances arguing with each other over ancient divisions.

Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin gave us great victories, inspiration and guidance. But they gave their attention to the struggle in hand that was happening in front of their face and so should we. We recognise our comrades by those who are fighting side by side with us now for peace and socialism.